WHEN, in the late 1930s, a weary motorist pulled up at a tiny village near Stanley and asked exactly where he was, a seven-year-old Bill Lees re-plied: "No Place, mister."

The driver's response was not printable, but it implied that the child's response was taken as a cheeky dig at a grown-up, rather than a geographical statement.

Now 60-odd years on, Bill is piecing together the first ever book on the history of No Place - a tiny community just off the A693, near Stanley.

Bill's two-year labour of love is the best chronicle of a village that, technically speaking, is not even a village. No Place is just that - no place.

Originally a squat settlement of four tiny terrace houses, it was demolished by residents of nearby Cooperative Villas in 1937, who later took on the No Place name.

Work begun on Cooperative Villas, built to house miners at the nearby Beamish Mary and Chophill pits, in 1893. It soon came a self-contained community with a pub, the Red Robin, now known famously as the Beamish Mary, two fish shops, a church known locally as the Tin Chapel and a general store.

It is the villagers though, not the bricks and mortar, who deserve more widespread rec-ognition.

Bill, who grew up in No Place from 1936 to 1955, said: "It really is an unusual place, with a bizarre history. It's most famous inhabitants were probably the No Place Nobblers, a jazz band that grew up during the Great Strike of 1926 that were so good that people from all over north County Durham wanted to join.

"Then there was Goughy's mule. A man called Joe McGough, the son of an Irish immigrant, brought a mule back from the First World War battlefields of France. It survived the Second World War, but died a few weeks later. To this day people associate the McGoughs with that mule."

l Anyone with information that could help Bill complete his book can ring him on 0191-385 2641. In particular he would like to hear from Clive Pearson, Malcolm Hunter and Malcolm Johnson